23 July 2012
Letter from John Newton to a friend concerning godly church members -
July 7, 1777
I have had a letter from your minister since his arrival at--. I hope he will be restored to you again before long, and that he and many of your place will rejoice long in each other. Those are favoured places which are blessed with a sound and faithful Gospel ministry, if the people know and consider the value of their privileges, and are really desirous of profiting by them: but the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
I hope those who profess the Gospel with you will wrestle in prayer for grace to walk worthy of it. A minister's hands are strengthened, when he can point to his people as so many living proofs that the doctrines he preaches are doctrines according to godliness; when they walk in mutual love; when each one, in their several places, manifests a humble, spiritual, upright conduct; when they are Christians, not only at church, but in the family, the shop, and the field; when they fill up their relations in life, as husbands or wives, masters or servants, parents or children, according to the rule of the word; when they are evidently a people separated from the world while conversant in it, and are careful to let their light shine before men, not only by talking, but by acting as the disciples of Christ: when they go on steadily, not by fits and starts, prizing the means of grace without resting in them: when it is thus, we can say, Now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.
Then we come forth with pleasure, and our service is our delight, and we are encouraged to hope for an increasing blessing. But if the people in whom we have rejoiced sink into formality or a worldly spirit; if they have dissensions and jealousies among themselves; if they act improperly, and give the enemies occasion to say, There, there, so would we have it; then our hearts are wounded and our zeal damped, and we know not how to speak with liberty.
It is my heart's desire and prayer for you, that whether I see you, or else be absent from you, I may know that you stand fast in one spirit and one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel.
I am, &c,